With Plants, Location is Everything

Daffodils are sun lovers. They sulk and disappear in deep shade.

Gardeners ponder a great deal about how they want their gardens to look. We look through seed catalogs. We browse at the nursery. We get notions. We want to have a certain plant here. We can picture it. But all too often our pretty pictures don’t materialize, simply because the plant is not happy where we put it. I’ve had countless numbers of plants sulk and die on me because they didn’t like the spot I chose for them.

I love all kinds of narcissus, and the early spring cheeriness they provide, but I had to face facts that my shady city garden is not a place where daffodils can grow. The full sun and sandy loam that I have in my country garden, on the other hand, are perfect for daffodils, so I enjoy them there. And I’ve given up planting them in the city.

Sometimes we plant a specimen in a spot that spells certain death. It’s too dry, or too boggy, or it’s a spot that gets walked on every day by the mailman. We have high hopes that the plant will “adjust” but sadly the poor plant will soon be a goner. We must accept these realities, because when we find the right location—and we often do—the plant, and our garden flourishes.

My sister repeats this mantra over and over, “Find out what works, and then plant way more of it.” What works is the state of having all the plant requirements in perfect balance.

The one requirement that plants need in my city garden is tenaciousness. They have to grow, even when the soil is strangled by Norway Maple roots, which is always. They have to tolerate shade, and the dryness of sandy beach soil. The good news is, while I had to give up on daffodils, I’ve found plants that do work in this challenging location. What works in my location are perennial foxgloves, (digitalis lutea) ornamental catnip, (nepeta) shasta  daisies, rudbeckia triloba, perennial Geraniums, and Clara Curtis chrysanthemum. Never daffodils. Sigh. I do cheat a bit however. This spring I bought pots of daffodils and put them in planters with pansies, giving me a little taste of forbidden fruit. When the daffodils finish, they will bloom another day in my sunny country garden, a place for daffodils if there ever was one.

Photo: Sarah Battersby

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